Wonder Boys

2000, USA/Germany/UK/Japan, 103 min.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, Michael Douglas garnered a reputation for playing aging men whose bubbling libidos doubled as domestic cautionary tales. This resonant, honest drama, based on Michael Chabon’s novel, is about the messiness of resurrection, not the ease of destruction. Douglas plays college professor Grady Tripp, a once-hot novelist, whose life is now a mess: a failed marriage, too much pot, and an unfinished, long overdue novel that his editor desperately wants. Over the course of an unwieldy weekend, Tripp undergoes an emotional reckoning spurred in part by a troubled but brilliant writing student (Tobey Maguire) and a revelation from his mistress (Frances McDormand), who happens to be his boss. Writer Steve Kloves and director Curtis Hanson keep the action brisk and frenetic without diminishing Tripp’s gradual escape from this self-made crisis. He can no longer hide in the shadows of his shortcomings.